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A Sophisticated Playroom + Get The Look

A month ago I was at my friend Suzanne’s, planning her bedroom makeover when I realized that her playroom was almost blog worthy. So I said, “Hey can I style your playroom and shoot it for the blog and take credit for all the cute things you’ve done?” She obliged, knowing she would get free styling and some new stuff. The space was great, it just needed some extra help. I’m a good helper.

Here it was before:

Suzannes Child Playroom Makeover Before Photo 1

That is a very unfair “before” shot as that was after Charlie and Townes had played/fought for a 1/2 hour. Just when you think you have the sweetest toddler on the planet, he proves to you that he is really just a sociopath. It takes them 3 hours of fighting to start having fun and sharing toys. Meanwhile someone’s home always gets destroyed. This time it was hers. But you get the gist – it was this pretty neutral, rustic, and warm space that could use like 15% styling help. It was open to the living room and dining room so this wasn’t the time to paste that tella tubby mural on the walls.

Suzannes Child Playroom Makeover Before Photo 2

This area, towards the dining room, in particular needed more help. She installed those shelves (that she stained herself) and they weren’t styled yet and felt empty. In addition she needed more storage, a larger rug, and the sofa needed some softening.

So we took two trips to Target and grabbed a couple plants and quickly fixed all those problems. Here you go:

Suzanne's Sophisticated Childrens Playroom Makeover Neutral Kids Blue Grey Emily Henderson-067

This side of the room changed very little and, like I said, it looks like I styled it when she did the bulk of the work. Sure, we added a plant, styled the books, and rearranged the table to face camera better (which was a cheat as we shot it the other way in the other position). Everything she had done made the room feel as big as possible and reduced the clutter (when there weren’t two toddlers destroying things).

Suzanne's Sophisticated Childrens Playroom Makeover Neutral Kids Blue Grey Emily Henderson-024

There are a few things here you should know: 1. She painted the bottom of the Thomas The Train table – a table that Brian and I have debated buying for months based on her recommendation, but we have NO space to put it so we are holding out. I guess typically the base of it is super colorful in a bad way, so she painted it that pretty pale gray and it looks so cute.

The second thing you should know is that she renovated that play kitchen. Like a whole kitchen overhaul on a miniature scale. Apparently this isn’t unheard of – check out this post for 10 other ideas for a play kitchen remodel. I was still extremely impressed.

When she bought it, it looked like this:

Duktig Ikea Kids Play Kitchen

But she wanted it to look like this, without that price tag.  So she painted it, put in a backsplash (subway tile contact paper), installed new countertops (marble contact paper) and reinstalled ‘copper’ hardware and faucet (spray paint).

Suzannes Child Playroom Makeover Emily Henderson Styling Kids Play Kitchen After 1

I feel like I do a lot in our home and that I’m useful and full of good ideas, but there is no way I would have thought to do this. Ever. She is a very good woman.

Suzanne's Sophisticated Childrens Playroom Makeover Neutral Kids Blue Grey Emily Henderson-095

Now the other side of the room looks pulled together. The bookcase looks like a combination of playroom and grownup family room.

Suzanne's Sophisticated Childrens Playroom Makeover Neutral Kids Blue Grey Emily Henderson-087

Here’s what we did:

1. Added closed storage for the unsightly toys (the pretty linen storage bins).

2. Displayed the cute toys like the trucks out as “objects” on the shelf.

Suzanne's Sophisticated Childrens Playroom Makeover Neutral Kids Blue Grey Emily Henderson-120

3. Added some art to help take up some real estate (so it didn’t look so bare), and art in the back of the shelf always adds depth.

4. Threw in some lamps to bring light over in that area during evening play hours (and strung the cord behind the vertical shelving pieces).

5. Displayed books with cute bookends or horizontally.

Suzanne's Sophisticated Childrens Playroom Makeover Neutral Kids Blue Grey Emily Henderson-108

Suzannes Child Playroom Makeover Emily Henderson Styling Kids Shelf Organization After 2

The sofa was perfectly simple and functional but felt sad, so we added that pretty throw and some pillows.

Suzanne's Sophisticated Childrens Playroom Makeover Neutral Kids Blue Grey Emily Henderson-098

As any mom of toddlers know, you want as few pieces of furniture possible in a playroom because those kids need space. No coffee table or unnecessary side tables were added – just a cute pouf (kids love to play on or around poufs) and textiles.

The rug worked well with the other rug and was a much better scale in the room (5×7). It is low pile enough so that cars can get rolled over, but still cozy for floor time playing.

Suzanne's Sophisticated Childrens Playroom Makeover Neutral Kids Blue Grey Emily Henderson-109

I love those animal pillows. Ridiculous.

There you have it – a quick playroom refresh before and after.

Suzannes Child Playroom Makeover Emily Henderson Styling Before and After 1

I think that what Suzanne did so well was keep the color palette really simple, neutral, and pretty. The blues, greys, and whites all work with the whole house (which is fairly open) and keep it feeling quiet in what is surely the most chaotic room. I think that if your playroom is separate from your living space, then go for nutty colors for sure; but if it’s open like this one, then be inspired by the simplicity here and keep it tonal. The toys and books will add those pops that make it feel playful.

Overall the transformation took a day and while we didn’t do anything major, it really is a more pulled together, adult friendly and still a pretty happy place for toddlers to totally destroy.

Get The Look Kids Neutral Playroom

1. Gray Convertible Futon | 2. Stag Head Decor | 3. Brass and Marble Square Accent Lamp | 4. Everything but the Dalmatian Fire Engine | 5. Ahoy Matey Framed Map | 6. Dinosaur Framed String Art | 7. Octopus Throw Pillow | 8. Safavieh Weston Natural Fiber Rug | 9.Zig Zag Embroidered Pillow | 10. Whale Throw Pillow | 11. Embossed Ceramic Table Lamp | 12. Ceramic Elephant | 13. Black & White Striped Vase | 14. Lidded Canvas Milk Crate Box | 15. Striped Cotton Blanket | 16. Wood Rhino Figurine | 17. Duktig Play Kitchen | 18. Ivar Pine Cabinet | 19. Black & White Pot | 20. Wheely Lady Bug Ride On | 21. Black & White Patterned Pouf | 22. Rhino Wood Bookends | 23. Greenich Gray & White Polka Dot Rug

Enjoyed this makeover post? Check out these: A DIY Kitchen Redo Under $400, Neutral (Well, Mostly) California Nursery, Scott’s Bedroom Makeover With Leesa, Moonrise Kingdom Boy’s Bedroom, A Rustic Mid-Century Family Room, Sara Updates Her Childhood Bedroom – The Reveal, The Easiest Guest Room Makeover Ever, Brady’s DIY Peel and Stick Kitchen Flooring (For Under $50).


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6 years ago

Love this simple little makeover!!! Just had a baby boy and I now have hope that we can stylishly coexist 🙂 Would also love to see the rest of her home! That dining room looks beautiful…

6 years ago

I think this is the most beautiful playroom I have ever seen! It´s so simple, so bright and the toys are so beautiful!

Thank you so much for sharing this!


6 years ago

ahhhhh! that puzzle storage! it’s genius! what is it? i swear puzzles are my nemesis and i’ve been dying for a better way to store them!

6 years ago
Reply to  caroline

I want to know too!

6 years ago
Reply to  Whitney

Looks like its the Melissa & Doug one: I have it and it’s great!

6 years ago
Reply to  caroline

Hey! The puzzle rack I found on Amazon: Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wire Puzzle Rack

6 years ago
Reply to  caroline
6 years ago

Lucky kids, the playroom looks great! 🙂

6 years ago

While of course I think the remade kitchen is fabulous, I am not sure any kid would notice the difference. So maybe that wouldn’t be the place to put effort. Same goes for toys–what’s cute to adults might not be cute to kids. And what goes on a shelf that a kid can reach vs. what goes up high…..mine used to place absolutely every toy on the floor, in lines. All shelves, bins empty. Then would declare: “Look! I arranged my room!”
Their concept is different. It’s hard to take, aesthetically, but it will pass.

6 years ago

What did you use to organize the puzzles? I love that idea and desperately need some organization with our puzzles. Love this room!

6 years ago

Cute room but that Ivar is still looking a little sad. A bit of levelling and straightening, and some knobs or handles would have gone a long way to class it up.

6 years ago

This looks great, love those wood shelves, and the little kitchen (they have come so far since I was a little kid ; ))

s jolly
6 years ago
Reply to  Nikki

Get a Nilo train table All you have to hide in photos or from yourself is the small name on the side We loved ours and usually didn’t use the mat I also like that the sides are low enough to put kids chairs around it for drawing and eating snacks or small birthday celebrations. And if there is an adult event you can use it for more adult snacks etc

6 years ago

hi emily, is the tall copper container holding tall toys from target? thanks!

6 years ago
Reply to  katherine

I agree! I’m dying to know the source for that one. 🙂 Thanks!

6 years ago
Reply to  Alyssa

I also must know about the copper thing!

That little kitchen is just too much!! How clever! ?

6 years ago

I really, really need that copper trash can sized bin that seems to only be in the view shot FROM the living room (I see you took it out in the view shot from the dining room). Where can I get that?! It’s beautiful!

6 years ago
Reply to  Nikaela

I noticed it was in that one shot only as well. Did you catch the balls in the wire basket in one shot then something else in the wire basket at a different angle? I guess like most of us they move things around until they like it one way (I know I am constantly arranging and rearranging) but missed them in pictures. Oh well, we’re all human but yes that copper bin is amazing! I hope she posts where she got it as well!

6 years ago

A beautiful room, love the kitchenette makeover. I’m curious, do the floors and ceiling beams count as espresso stained? It seems to work here better than other espresso woods, so maybe it’s a different color way?

6 years ago

Thank you for doing a playroom! I’m converting our 4th bedroom into a playroom for my boys and I LOVE this space – definitely going to use it for inspiration!

6 years ago

i have that blanket (in red) on my bed, and now i have to go get another one to put on my couch. it’s remarkably like the couch in the playroom, and it needs more cute.

thanks for the inspiration!

6 years ago

Can the Ivar be separated in to two shelving units? I desperately need help with storage in my living room / only playroom in the house, but need shelves to flank a large window. I checked Ikea’s website but it doesn’t say.

6 years ago
Reply to  Emily

Sweet! Thanks a bunch!!

6 years ago

I have a little Townes! My Townes would totally love this spot, too. What a great use of a small, kinda weird space in their home. It shows a lot of love — I don’t mind seeing kids stuff–it’s happy and when you have kids, that’s just the way it is. Great job to both of you!

6 years ago

Loved this post with applicable things we can do to improve our playrooms or kids’ rooms! I also like how you list the supply links with descriptions.

So fun.

6 years ago

Of course, I think the makeover looks great, but OMG that view!!!

6 years ago

These (and your clothes) posts are my favorite. Makes me feel like I can give my spaces a little boost too! Getting the blanket today!

6 years ago

What’s the source for the art on the top right of the shelves? It’s probably vintage, right? It’s beautiful.

6 years ago
Reply to  Emily

Thank you!

6 years ago

It just occurred to me that your friends must get really self-conscious when you visit their home I mean, you probably notice every detail and I assume you can’t just turn it off. Does that happen? Like your friends start apologizing when you get in the door. Too funny.

6 years ago

This room looks so cozy, fun, and perfectly balance between kid-friendly function and grownup aesthetic. The view looks amazing too!

I really want to do a toy kitchen remodel – Dana at House*Tweaking did one that is just as adorable as Suzanne’s:

6 years ago

Wonderful room even before you styled it. I like all the changes the owner did herself. Styling makes it look even more refined.

6 years ago

I love this playroom and the makeover!! All the storage containers are cute and functional. Can anyone help me identified the gray stackable bins in the middle of the room? Thanks!!

6 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

And also the pillow with the tassels too! Love it. Thanks!

6 years ago

I love this post, and I’m jealous she has the space for a playroom. A quarter of our living room is our toddlers playroom. I also wanted to buy a train table for our Thomas obsessed son, but we have no place to put it. So I found a space saving alternative. Google “train board young house love”. They did a great tutorial. Basically it’s like a train table that you can make, without the legs. When you’re done using it just slide it underneath the couch.

6 years ago
Reply to  Julie

As a mother of four kids under age 6, three of whom are old enough to enjoy trains (girl and 2 boys), I say skip the table and buy a cool track-rug instead (like H&M, something stylish. I made my own on Society6). My kids love having the space on which to spread out some new track designs. I’m sure it really stimulates their STEM time, too, though I’m just excited they’re problem-solving and being creative and not throwing track at each other. Just a thought…The tables for my kids are novelties, but the real play happens on the floor.

6 years ago

The head of a dead animal as decor, especially in a playroom? Disrespectful and gross. I will miss this blog very much, but I can’t support taxidermy, even just by providing pageviews. Emily, I really hope you will jump off the taxidermy bandwagon. You’re better than this.

6 years ago

I love the look of the blanket on the sofa. Could you do the same thing if your sofa has loose back cushions? Or would the blanket have to go behind the sofa cushions? I’d like to try this with my own sofa.

Sophia F
6 years ago

This is just lovely. I will say though, as a mom of a daughter who is slightly older than Charlie (and another almost exactly the same age as Elliott) she would be incredibly upset if her toys and books were out of her reach. Though I would dearly love for the shelving in our playroom to look this nicely styled, at this age, it matters more to me that we foster her independence, and enable her to clean up her own toys, than that our room is pretty. So our Expedit 5×5 has toy bins along the bottom row, books and random larger toys (like her doctor kit and puzzles) in cubbies in the second and third rows, a mostly empty third row, and board games and cookbooks (no other place available!) in the top row where she can’t possibly reach them, even when she drags a chair over. Not the best to look at, but hey, it’s only a few years… hopefully 🙂 At least we have a general white-pale blue-soft grey color palette that makes it look like we tried!

6 years ago

What a perfect little playroom! I love that it’s separate, but connected. And now it looks even better than it did!

6 years ago

As always, love what you do!

BUT I’m a little scandalized by how each shot shows different pieces in or out; namely, copper bin, ball bin, blanket bin, etc.

Would you ever consider doing a series with an “As Is” slant? As in, “I would style it this way, and here’s how you might take what I’ve styled and use it in the every day.” Because sheesh, I can make a space look fairly good (okay, maybe a 5/10 if you’re the 10) if I take items out for a photo. But as a mom of four kids in 4.5 years (our oldest is 5.5), I want to know how to look good, style good, live good.

What do you think? I’m on pins and needles!


6 years ago

Did the Ivar Cabinet get an extension? It looks taller in the picture than what the size is on IKEA’s website? Also, what color stain did they use on the Ivar?

6 years ago
Reply to  MUFFIN G

Wondering this too… Maybe it’s a different model than the current one in their line? It doesn’t seem possible that the one in the playroom could be 70 1/2 in like the one on the website.

6 years ago

Love this! My playroom is similar in that it looks almost Pinterest worthy but needs some help. Coming to Florida any time soon? Lol

6 years ago

Hi Emily, where are the beautiful linen storage sacks from? so beautiful!

6 years ago

Nice blog… Please keep us informed like this…

6 years ago

I love this play room and also have a little boy who loves his train table and love the idea to paint it so it’s nicer to look at! Please can you let me know where the white book shelf is from that is behind the train table? Thank you! Emily

6 years ago

Love the playroom! What paint did Suzanne use for the train table base? I have the same table and would love to update it! Thank you!

6 years ago

So lovely! And I adore the BIRD CAGE!! Please, can you please share the source? TIA!

6 years ago

I struggle with puzzles – not doing them, but cleaning them up (endlessly) after my son throws the pieces around. What kind of storage did you use for the puzzles in this post? It looks like it might be something for the kitchen, but repurposed?

Thanks so much!

6 years ago

Hi! Would you be able to share where Suzanne got the contact paper and paints for the DUKTIG kitchen? It was a brilliant idea!

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